Conservation Minnesota

Record 92F Friday – Climate Connection to Fort McMurray Conflagration?

92 F. new record high in the Twin Cities Friday, breaking the old record of 89F in 1934

67 F. average high on May 6.

77 F. high on May 6, 2015.

May 7, 1916: Strong winds sweep across the state and cause dust storms over southern Minnesota. Great damage is done to standing timber in Northern Minnesota. Many fires develop, one of which would destroy 30,000,000 feet of lumber.

Spring The Way It Was Probably Meant To Be

“I’m so excited about a real spring this year! So often we go from ankle-deep slush to heat and bugs in the span of a week” gushed Barb Peterson, co-proprietor of Gull Dam Brewery in Nisswa. Yes, I was enjoying a few (predicted) showers of cold beer, cooling off from Friday’s 90-degree heat spike. A puff of cooler Canadian air drops temperatures almost 20 degrees today with smoky sunshine.

Record winter warmth coupled with an early spring and a warm, dry blocking pattern has produced tinder-dry conditions to our north. Smoke from the massive wildfire near Fort McMurray, Alberta may show up overhead, dimming the sun at times. Imagine the entire population of St. Cloud or Rochester being forced to flee a natural disaster. That’s what our neighbors to the north are experiencing.

Winds ease Sunday, with enough blue sky for low 70s. Another perfect spring day. Showers arrive Monday and linger into Thursday; by the end of next week a little frost is possible over northern Minnesota.

A subtle (yet blunt) reminder that spring on the prairie is on-again, off-again.

Fabulously fickle.

ECMWF Guidance. The forecast calls for a cooling trend – 60s today; low 70s tomorrow before  falling back into 60s next week – maybe upper 50s by the end of next week. Source: WeatherBell.

Trending Wetter. GFS guidance prints out about .80″ of rain next week, most of that coming Tuesday. Within 10 days as much as 2″ may fall. Although in truth: GFS has been overplaying rainfall amounts in recent weeks. Graphic: NOAA and Aeris Enterprise.

Last Spring Frost? Probably yes for the Twin Cities metro and most of southern and central Minnesota and western Wisconsin. But from the Red River Valley to the Minnesota Arrowhead? I’m not so sure looking at the latest maps. Here’s an excerpt from this week’s edition of Minnesota WeatherTalk from Dr. Mark Seeley: “The agricultural planting season has progressed well with a majority (close to 75 percent) of the corn crop planted and more than a third of the soybean acreage planted. In addition gardeners are removing mulches, planting potted plants outdoors and putting in garden vegetable seeds. Some have even mowed their lawns already. Many have been asking if the last spring frost is behind us. For the Twin Cities Metro Area the last sub-freezing temperature reported at the MSP Airport was on April 12th with 27°F, but surrounding communities like Stillwater (26°F), New Hope (32°F), and Chanhassen (32°F) reported frost on April 29th...”

Don’t Pack Away the Jackets Just Yet. Although I don’t see a metro frost, low temperatures may dip into the upper 30s next weekend – another (inevitable) relapse.


This Week’s Wild Weather, Brought To You By The Letter ‘Omega’. Are blocking patterns becominig more frequent? For the better part of 10-15 years I’ve been sharing my personal (anecdotal) views that weather may be slowing down, more prone to stalling for extended periods of time, intensifying droughts and floods. Here’s an excerpt from WXshift: “…This is the reason the heat has surged into Canada, worsening the ongoing fire in Fort McMurray. (Climate change also played a role in setting the stage for earlier and more intense fires in the region.) Similarly, it is the reason that the Northeast U.S. has been so chilly. Omega blocks are fairly common in spring, as the jet stream begins to weaken and migrate northward for its summer residence. Like slower moving water near the side of a riverbank, as that flow slows down and moves away, it leaves behind spinning swirls. In the atmosphere, those swirls become blocks. While blocks are a normal part of weather, there is some tentative evidence that blocking may become more common with climate change. The warming Arctic may be the key driver and is a reminder that what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic...” (Image credit: WeatherBell).

May 6, 1965: “The Longest Night”. Meteorologist Jim Peterson takes a look at the historic tornado swarm that struck 51 years ago, including posting photos and radar images of that long night. Here’s an excerpt at KAALtv.com: “A question commonly asked when big events in history were taking place. Growing up in my hometown of Fridley, part of the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities, every year my classmates and I heard answers to that question about this day, back in 1965. May 6th, 1965 started out as a warm, breezy spring day, but it would become a nightmare for thousands, and would be forever remembered in the Twin Cities, as “Suburbia’s Longest Night”…”


May 5, 1965 Twin Cities Tornado Swarm. These were not garden-variety tornadoes – these were large, violent, long-track tornadoes typical for Oklahoma. Here’s an excerpt of an overview at Wikipedia: “…On May 6, an outbreak of six strong tornadoes, four of them violent F4s, affected Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, and has been nicknamed “The Longest Night”, killing 13 people and causing major damages—at the time the most damaging single weather event in Minnesota history.[1] Three of the six tornadoes occurred on the ground simultaneously, and two of them hit the section of Minnesota State Highway 100 (now Interstate 694) and University Avenue in the city of Fridley.[4] Both Fridley tornadoes damaged 1,100 homes and destroyed about 425; total losses reached $14.5 million, $5 million of which was to the Fridley school system…”

Fire Weather Watch Up North. NOAA has downgraded the Red Flag Warning to a Fire Weather Watch, calling for an enhanced risk of rapidly-spreading wildfires. Details:

...FIRE WEATHER WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM SATURDAY MORNING
THROUGH SATURDAY EVENING FOR FOR LOW HUMIDITY AND GUSTY WINDS...
...RED FLAG WARNING HAS EXPIRED FOR FOR LOW HUMIDITY AND GUSTY
WINDS...

* AFFECTED AREA...IN MINNESOTA...FIRE WEATHER ZONES 010...011...
012...018...019...025...026...033...034...035...036...037 AND
038.

* WINDS...NORTHWEST 10 TO 20 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 30 MPH.

* RELATIVE HUMIDITY...AS LOW AS 19 PERCENT.

* TEMPERATURES...IN THE UPPER 50S.

* IMPACTS...ANY FIRES THAT DEVELOP WILL LIKELY SPREAD RAPIDLY.
OUTDOOR BURNING IS NOT RECOMMENDED.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A FIRE WEATHER WATCH MEANS THAT CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS
ARE FORECAST TO OCCUR. LISTEN FOR LATER FORECASTS AND POSSIBLE
RED FLAG WARNINGS.

High Fire Risk. The combination of a dry week, strong winds and low humidity levels has increased the fire  risk across much of Minnesota, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. The map above shows the 7-Day “Significant Fire Potential” for the USA.


What Canada’s Wildfire Disaster Looks Like From Earth and Space. Capital Weather Gang has interesting perspective on the devastating blaze impacting much of Alberta; here’s an excerpt: “…
Imagery of the blaze, obtained from cameras and sensors on Earth and in space, reveal the tremendous scale of this disaster and its intensity. In the surreal dash-cam video at the top of this post, you get a sense for how fast the fire, fanned by gusty winds, was spreading Tuesday. From the vantage point of space at the same time, it looked as if a bomb exploded. Satellite imagery from NASA reveals the likeness of a mushroom cloud over the torched region...”

Graphic credit: “View of Fort McMurray wildfire from space on Tuesday.” (NASA)


Dry Winter and Warm Spring Set the Stage for Canadian Inferno. Here’s the intro to a story at The New York Times: “A relatively dry El Niño winter, a warm spring that melted snow earlier and years of policies that left forests ripe for burning have contributed to the destructive wildfire that forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray in Alberta, scientists say. Global warming may have played a role, too, although experts cautioned that it was impossible to link an individual event like this one directly to climate change. But there is little doubt that global warming has affected the frequency and intensity of fires, and lengthened the fire season in Alberta, as it has elsewhere in North America…”
Photo credit above: “Wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Wednesday. More than 80,000 people have fled the area.Credit Master Corporal Vanputten/Canadian Armed Forces, via European Pressphoto Agency.

San Andreas Fault “Locked, Loaded and Ready to Roll” with Big Earthquake, Expert Says. Here’s the intro to a story at The Los Angeles Times: “Southern California’s section of the San Andreas fault is “locked, loaded and ready to roll,” a leading earthquake scientist said Wednesday at the National Earthquake Conference in Long Beach. The San Andreas fault is one of California’s most dangerous, and is the state’s longest fault. Yet for Southern California, the last big earthquake to strike the southern San Andreas was in 1857, when a magnitude 7.9 earthquake ruptured an astonishing 185 miles between Monterey County and the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles…”

Graphic credit above: “Although the Pacific plate is moving northwest relative to North America at about 16 feet, or 5 meters, every 100 years, the southern San Andreas fault has been quiet for more than a century.” (Thomas Jordan / Southern California Earthquake Center)


GAO: DHS Not Doing Enough to Prevent EMP Disaster. Got that? An EMP or electromagnetic pulse can be triggered by the sun, or a high-altitude nuclear detonation. Here are a couple of clips from a Power Magazine article that got my undivided attention: “The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) internally recognizes that a power grid failure resulting from an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) or a solar storm can pose great risk to the security of the nation, but it hasn’t prepared adequately, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a newly released report…The April 25–released report assesses risks posed by a high-altitude—from 25 to 250 miles above the Earth’s surface—EMP event, which could be caused by the detonation of a nuclear device above the atmosphere. The burst of electromagnetic radiation resulting from such an event could disrupt or destroy computers and damage electronics and insulators, as well as severely damage critical electrical infrastructure like transformers...”


Oil Firms Have 10 Years to Change Strategy or Face “Short, Brutish End.” Here’s a clip from The Guardian: “International oil companies such as Shell and BP must completely change their business model or face a “nasty, brutish and short” end within 10 years, one of Britain’s most influential energy experts has warned. Paul Stephens, a fellow at Chatham House thinktank, said in a research paper the oil “majors” were no longer fit for purpose – hit by low crude prices, tightening climate change regulations and their own wrongheaded strategies. In the report, Stephens argues the only way forward for the companies lies in diversifying into green energy, drastically reducing their operations or consolidating through mega-mergers…”

Photo credit: “Protesters in Grand Isle chastise BP for the environmental damage caused by the Deep Water Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.” Photograph: KeystoneUSA/Zuma/Rex.


Not-So-Big Oil. The Economist reports.


Here Comes The Next Huge Wave of Solar Panels. Huffington Post reports; here’s the intro: “The solar industry is booming. The millionth set of solar panels in the United States was installed sometime in the last two months, and industry leaders expect the number of solar-powered systems to double within two years. That’s a huge deal, experts say. While solar still only makes up 1 percent of the country’s energy mix, the swift rise in solar capacity portends a bright future for an energy source that, less than 10 years ago, a leading solar tech scientist dismissed as “green bling for the wealthy.”  Just 30,000 residential solar installations dotted the country a decade ago. Since then, the cost of generating power from solar has dropped by over 70 percent…” (Photo credit: Reuters).


Solar Power is Contagious. These Maps Show How It Spreads. I suspected this was the case but now there’s proof – here’s a story clip from Vox: “…But there’s another, little-discussed factor here: Residential solar power is contagious. Yep, contagious. Studies have found that if you install solar photovoltaic panels on your roof, that increases the odds that your neighbors will install their own panels. SolarCity, the largest solar installer in the United States, just published some fascinating data on this “contagion” effect. The company has installed 230,000 rooftop systems nationwide (often by allowing customers to lease panels rather than buy them upfront). It says fully one-third of customers were referred by a friend or neighbor…”

The House of Mugs. Hey, why not? Everyone has a favorite mug, right? Here’s an excerpt from Atlas Obscura: “At the very end of an unpaved country road stands a cozy home, completely covered in coffee mugs. The owners, Avery and Doris Sisk, created their quirky attraction almost by accident. It started over 15 years ago with a box-lot of 15 mugs picked up at a flea market. It seemed like a good décor decision at the time, so they hung them up. More and more have been added over the years, and now – at least 20,000 mugs later – Avery and Doris have created a destination. Their cabin in the woods is dripping in cups and mugs of all kinds, the gates and fencing too…”

Image credit here.

TODAY: Sunny, cooler breeze. Winds: N 10-15. High: near 70

SATURDAY NIGHT: Clear and cool. Low: 50

SUNDAY: Perfect spring day. Sunny, less wind. Winds:  NE 5-10. High: 72

MONDAY: Sunny start, showers arrive late. Windy. Wake-up: 52. High: 69

TUESDAY: Wettest day, periods of rain likely. Winds: E 10-20. Wake-up: 51. High: 61

WEDNESDAY: Unsettled, a few spotty showers. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 55. High: 65

THURSDAY: Cooler, few leftover showers. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 48. High: 58


Climate Stories…


Fort McMurray and the Fires of Climate Change. We know that fire season is increasing, and the frequency of large fires is on the increase. But can we connect the dots with the current conflagration in Alberta? Elizabeth Kolbert summaries the trends in a story at The New Yorker; here’s an excerpt: “…You can say it couldn’t get worse,” Jolly added, but based on its own projections, the forest service expects that it will get worse. According to a Forest Service report published last April, “Climate change has led to fire seasons that are now on average 78 days longer than in 1970.” Over the last three decades, the area destroyed each year by forest fires has doubled, and the service’s scientists project that it’s likely to “double again by midcentury.” A group of scientists who analyzed lake cores from Alaska to obtain a record of forest fires over the last ten thousand years found that in recent decades, blazes were both unusually frequent and unusually severe. “This extreme combination suggests a transition to a unique regime of unprecedented fire activity,” they concluded...”

Photo credit above: “A helicopter flies past a wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Wednesday. The blaze has spread through an area covering more than three hundred square miles.Credit Photograph by Jason Franson / The Canadian Press / AP.



Abrupt Sea Level Rise Looms as Increasingly Realistic Threat. If anything climate models have underestimated the rate of sea level rise. Here’s the intro of a good summary of the uncertainty involved at Yale Environment 360: “Ninety-nine percent of the planet’s freshwater ice is locked up in the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps. Now, a growing number of studies are raising the possibility that as those ice sheets melt, sea levels could rise by six feet this century, and far higher in the next, flooding many of the world’s populated coastal areas. Last month in Greenland, more than a tenth of the ice sheet’s surface was melting in the unseasonably warm spring sun, smashing 2010’s record for a thaw so early in the year. In the Antarctic, warm water licking at the base of the continent’s western ice sheet is, in effect, dissolving the cork that holds back the flow of glaciers into the sea; ice is now seeping like wine from a toppled bottle…”

Photo credit above: Christopher Michel/Flickr. “West Antarctica’s glaciers and floating ice shelves are becoming increasingly unstable.”


Is There a Right Way to Talk About Climate Change? The Christian Science Monitor reports; here’s an excerpt: “Framing climate change as a collective, rather than individual, problem can make Americans care more about the issue, say two doctoral candidates in political science at UC San Diego in a paper published Wednesday in the journal Climatic Change. Contrary to popular opinion, climate communication researchers say personal appeals are largely ineffective. Instead of focusing on individual guilt and fear to illicit environmental action, activists, organizations, and politicians will see better results by framing the issue of climate change as a collective effort already moving in the right direction…”

Skepticism About Climate Change May Be Linked to Concerns About Economy. ScienceDaily has an interesting story – here’s a link and excerpt: “Americans may be more likely to accept the scientific evidence of human-caused climate change and its potentially devastating effects if they believe the economy is strong and stable, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association. The findings may help explain why many Americans haven’t been swayed by public education and advocacy efforts indicating that climate change is being caused by humans. People who are concerned about the economy and who are strong supporters of the free market system may be more skeptical about climate change and downplay its potential effects, the study found. The research was published online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General...”

Glacier National Park Gives Montanans a Close View of Climate Change. NPR has the (audio) story: here’s a link and story summary: “David Greene visits Glacier National Park in Montana to explore the extent to which concerns involving climate change may inform Montanans’ view of the presidential election.”


Elon Musk: “We Must Revolt Against the Unrelenting Propaganda of the Fossil Fuel Industry.” Here’s a clip from a story at EcoWatch: “…The fundamental issue with fossil fuels is … every use of fossil fuels comes with a subsidy,” Musk said in his talk with forum organizer and DBL Partners venture capitalist Ira Ehrenpreis. According to the Tesla CEO, cheap oil and gasoline prices not only prevent drivers from switching their gas-guzzlers to electric cars, it also deters the fight against climate change. Musk explained that the well-funded fossil fuel industry isn’t even paying for their contribution to environmental destruction. “It would be like if you could just dump garbage in the street and not pay for garbage pickup,” he said…”


Is Your Governor or Attorney General a Climate Denier? This Map Will Tell You. Here’s more detail at ThinkProgress: “After sweating through the second straight year that earned the title of hottest year on record, new research from the Center for American Progress Action Fund finds that 24 governors and attorneys general publicly deny the reality of climate change. It also gives a comprehensive summary of their records and public views on climate change and energy issues. The 21 governors publicly confirmed as climate deniers is an increase from previous years. The public is way ahead of these state lawmakers — a recent poll found that 76 percent of Americans said they believed global climate change is occurring, including 59 percent of Republicans…” (Map credit: Dylan Petrohilos).


To Visualize Climate Change, Think About Water. Increasingly too much or too little, as the hydrological cycle goes on fast-forward. Here’s a snippet from a story at Marketplace: “…If you’ve been having trouble getting your uncle or former college roommate to understand how climate change would affect them, you might find water availability to resonate more than atmospheric carbon or starving polar bears. “Whether it’s droughts, whether it’s floods, whether it’s storms and cyclones or sea level rise, most of the deleterious, the bad impacts occur through the water cycle,” said Richard Damania, an economist at the World Bank and lead author of the study.It’s probably no exaggeration to say that much of climate change is about change in the water cycle or the hydrological cycle and its impacts.” As the planet warms, it will change how much water evaporates into the atmosphere and where it comes back down as rain…”



As Climate Change Cooks the Arctic, East Coast Blizzards May Become More Likely. Counterintuitive, but the rapid warming and melting of Greenland may be having a meteorological domino effect, as described at Capital Weather Gang: “…It is well known that many of the fiercest East Coast storms form when a massive area of high pressure develops over Greenland, known as the Greenland Block. This feature causes the jet stream to dive south over the eastern United States, achieving a configuration that delivers cold air and establishes a path for storms to draw moisture from the Atlantic. A study in the International Journal of Climatology published early this week   documents “significant increases” in Greenland blocking “in all seasons” since 1981. A substantial fraction of the biggest snowstorms on record to strike major East Coast cities have occurred since the 1980s…”


Climate Change Will Transform U.S. Forests – Study. Climate Home connects the dots; here’s an excerpt: “North America’s great forests could change in dramatic ways by the end of the century, according to new research. Subtropical species may colonise the forests of the Cascade mountain range straddling the US-Canada border, the woodlands of the US Gulf Coast may end up looking more like Cuba, and parts of Texas might become home to the hot, dry forests now found in Mexico…”

Photo credit above: “Native tree species are vulnerable to increasing drought risk.” (Flickr/Nicholas A. Tonelli).

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About Paul Douglas

Paul Douglas
Paul Douglas is a meteorologist, author, entrepreneur, and software expert in Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota. He is a nationally recognized meteorologist with over 30 years of broadcast television and radio experience.
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